Heathrow’s future

By | Category: Travel rumblings

In the BBC interview that John Holland-Kaye, the boss of Heathrow, that I referred to yesterday gave he emphasised that you couldn’t get the UK economy up and running without increased business people flying.

panoramic view of Heathrow
Heathrow showing the area north of the runways and where the third runway is planned

The two, he suggested, were inextricably linked and that meant Heathrow was vital for future economic growth.

Well he would say that, wouldn’t he!

Whilst he wants a return to the pre-coronavirus levels of passenger numbers – Heathrow is only operating at 3% of its capacity – will business people really fly in the same high numbers?

The advantages of Skype, Zoom, Facetime and visual conferencing software is likely to make business people wonder whether some trips are necessary. After all, they have done without flying for six weeks and not meeting people face-to-face has not proved cataclysmic.

Companies have a duty of care for their employees so some may decide not to let some people fly. Others suspected that flying was a bit of a jolly anyway but, in order to keep staff happy, allowed it. Now as companies repair balance sheets, there might be less business travel.

That will not only hit airports, airlines, car-hire firms, taxis and hotels but theatres and restaurants because business people are generous with their expenses.

With fewer business passengers, could Heathrow justify its announced third runway? Probably the answer is yes because building runways takes years and in 7-10 years’ time, coronavirus could be a long-forgotten pause in economic activity.

Holland-Kaye dodged answering questions about whether there was need for a new runway by saying his focus was to get through this crisis.

Neither he nor anyone else knows what the reactions of flyers be they business or leisure ones will be when we emerge from coronavirus. He, along with airlines, airports and overseas destinations will be hoping that people quickly forget and return to their old habits.

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